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|A CurtainUp Review
The Donkey Show
By Les Gutman
The recipe for The Donkey Show could be described as one part Tony and Tina's Wedding, one part De La Guarda, and a heavy sprinkling of A Midsummer Night's Dream, all shaken to a disco bet. The show's subtitle sums it up pretty well: "A Midsummer Night's Disco". Several months ago, I sat through film and stage versions of Midsummer Night's Dream on successive nights. My review (linked below) began by discussing what I called a "compelling urge to toy" with the play. Little did I know...
Ticket in hand, you get in line behind a velvet rope. You may discover some real characters in line with you, like the two Vinnies (Jordin Ruderman and Emily Hellstrom) who would later form the "rude mechanicals" of the donkey show within this show. Some other seventies-style club kids are hanging out up front -- they must be on the guest list. The show proper starts at 9 PM but the doors open at 8:30. To get the full effect, arrive about 8:15. Once you get past the door guy, Rico Sauve (Orlando Santana) [it's not just an act, this is a club and it really is 21 and over], you'll find a nice dance floor, a stage with several tables beyond, a bar to the back, a mezzanine with tables and curved banquettes and a balcony. DJ Hernando Pacheski (Kevin Shand) is spinning tunes.
Audience members choose how to enjoy the show: sitting at a table, on the dancefloor, at the bar, upstairs. After about half an hour of relaxing and dancing, the "show" begins. No matter where you have positioned yourself, you'll eventually find yourself in the front row; nowhere is off-limits to these performers. Oberon (Rachel Benbow Murdy) owns the club; Tytania (Anna Wilson) is his "disco-diva" girlfriend and Puck (Roman Pietrs), who controls the club's "charms" in the back room behind the velvet curtain, is on roller skates. (Yes, all of these actors are men -- not the only surprises you'll encounter during the course of the evening -- but, in fairness, all of the fairies are men.) The famous love quartet remains largely intact, although their names have been shortened a little in disco land.
So what's this all about? For starters, it's an infectious good time. It's also entertaining. Paulus and Weiner have done a fairly remarkable job of using popular disco songs to convey the essence of A Midsummer Night's Dream. And by the time the young lovers awaken to Stephanie Mills singing N"ever Knew Love Like This Before," the audience has certainly bought into it. There are some shortcomings, the actors singing over the recorded music leaves a great deal to be desired and the actual donkey show, somewhere between goofy and bizarre, is less than inspired, but The Donkey Show certainly makes its mark. It may resonate more for those who loved to boogie in Alicia Bridge's Nightlife, back when tambourines and whistles were de rigueur, but it can ring just about anybody's bell.
LINKS MENTIONED ABOVE
CurtainUp's review of A Midsummer Night's Dream